Driving while legally blind may seem like an oxy-moron, unless you know about the most highly advanced, sight-enhancing medical devices on the market today. We help our legally blind patients do a lot of important things like driving, by carefully assessing their sight and prescribing the right medical device to enhance it. Jason W., a patient here at Low Vision Specialists of MD & VA, is a perfect example. Driving while legally blind may seem like an oxy-moron, unless you know about the most highly advanced, sight-enhancing medical devices on the market today. We help our legally blind patients do a lot of important things like driving, by carefully assessing their sight and prescribing the right medical device to enhance it. Jason, a patient here at Low Vision Specialists of MD & VA, is a perfect example.
Jason suffers from Stargardt’s Disease, a degenerative eye disease that has made him legally blind. When it degenerates, Stargardt’s Disease leaves a blind spot right in the center of vision, which makes it impossible to recognize faces, read a book, or pass a driver’s license vision test. We prescribed a pair of telescope glasses for Jason that enabled him to see and drive again safely. In fact, Jason recently completed an 8+ hour road trip this summer, once thought impossible to achieve, driving the full distance himself.
Driving while legally blind
Driving while legally blind requires the right vision enhancing devices, common sense and an understanding of specific state law. For example, most visually impaired people prefer to drive in the daytime and in good weather because the light is best for driving in those conditions. State law regarding the use of telescope lenses and other vision enhancing devices is highly specific and varies widely, so it is important that you know the specific requirements in your state. Prevent Blindness, a leading national volunteer eye health and safety organization, has a comprehensive list of state vision screening and “standards for license to drive” on their site. It is a good place to begin to understand the laws of your state.
In general, driving laws take into account two factors regarding vision:
1. Visual Acuity: Whether you have 20/20, 20/40 vision etc.
2. Visual field: The size of the area of your vision that has no defects
Here are some examples that show how some states establish driving laws based on those two factors and the use of vision enhancing medical devices.
Washington state: A quick visual acuity test is performed for drivers renewing their licenses, and is used to determine whether a driver meets the acuity standard of 20/40 with or without corrective lenses with both eyes. Customers with bioptic lenses must pass the exam without the use of the bioptic telescope.
Wisconsin: Those who wish to drive with vision impairments are referred to a vision specialist for a recommendation, and may be required to take a complete Driving Evaluation. “Applicants may not use a bioptic telescopic lens to meet the visual acuity standards if the lens reduces the field of vision below the standard.”
Virginia: Virginia allows the use of telescopic lenses for driving, provided that visual acuity is 20/200 or better in one or both eyes through the carrier lens, and 20/70 or better in one or both eyes through the bioptic telescopic lens, which must be mounted to the carrier lens.
Utah: Applicants requiring the use of telescopic lenses to pass vision tests must successfully complete a comprehensive road test before licensure.
If you are legally blind and want to drive and fully participate in the activities of daily living, call us. We work every day with patients who have been told that nothing more can be done to enhance their vision. Many of them believe that driving is something they will never do again. We help these patients to meet their goals of seeing the faces of loved ones, watching TV, reading, and even driving. We put Jason back on the road to living a full life and we can help you too.